Experts spelled it out at a Friday hearing, but Legislative leaders seem ready to ignore pointed, scientific warnings about a proposed iron ore mine because Republican legislators, led by recall-threatened Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, (R-Juneau), are still in love with the deregulation goals of the industry-friendly, industry-drafted Assembly mining bill.
As written, the bill suggests this analogy: you're facing heart surgery, but get no x-rays or blood tests in advance because your insurance company doesn't think they're necessary.
And your surgical team, lead by a "Dr." Fitzgerald, prefers boning up on surgical techniques by reading its advertising brochures instead of medical journals and conference proceedings.
From the Capital Times:
...But later testimony focused on the fact that the stretch of northern Wisconsin land Gogebic Taconite wants to mine contains more than simply iron ore.
"This is a scientific issue," Joe Skulan of Lodi told members of the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee. "And nobody is talking about the rocks."
Skulan, and others, including George Meyer, who served as secretary of the Department of Natural Resources under former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson, were critical of the state passing a mining law that only regulates iron ore mining and doesn't address toxic chemicals that are likely to be stirred up in the process.
The state's current mining law regulates all of these materials. But the bill now before the committee no longer regulates non-ferrous mining. By all accounts, this bill was crafted specifically to assist Gogebic Taconite in its proposal to dig a huge iron ore mine south of Ashland.
Meyer says the lack of regulations would leave no safeguards in place when the sulphite layers above the iron ore seep into the lakes, streams and groundwater nearby.
"This is a mine that should be regulated under current standards," Meyer said.
Meyer, currently the executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, said anyone who knows anything about rock formations can simply look at the site where the $1.5 billion mine is being proposed to see there are other rock materials on top of the iron ore that will be problematic.
Skulan added that when a material like pyrite, commonly known as fool's gold, mixes with oxygen, it becomes a toxic substance that also would go unregulated, causing pollution to nearby waterways.
"There may well be as much pyrite as there is ore," Skulan said. "But the mining company is saying ‘No. This is just an iron ore mine.'"
Gogebic Taconite has not done any sampling of the rocks, leading to wide speculation about what is buried below the earth.
"Those concerns about environmental damages are very real," Meyer says. "There is no way of arguing that this law isn't lowering the state's environmental standards."